Wednesday 27 June 2012

It's not every day you get to pitch your business idea ...

This weekend I was a participant in the "Entrepreneurs pressure cooker weekend 2012" at the HVA. It took place in the inspirational new "Studio HVA" in Amsterdam.

It was a full programme of inspirational speeches from entrepreneurs like Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, but mainly brainstorming your own business concept and ideas with colleges and the coaches and the Manager of ACE Martin Haring.

It isn't every day you get to pitch your business idea to a couple of multi-millionairs and serial entrepreneurs. Wow it was nerve racking but so much fun.

I began with three very rough ideas I thought of before the weekend and whittled it down to two on the day and then one that I pitched to the jury:

Idea 3: The Collaboration Games - After talking with some experts it seems this idea was too similar to other offerings and would be difficult to scale.

Idea 2: VC Young Entrepreneurs - As it turns out the idea was not new, there is a plan for this in the "valorisatie" plan in Amsterdam.

Idea 1: OwnBrand for topsportswomen  - This is the idea I pitched [watch video]. I am passionate about building the brands and image of top sports women in the non-mainsteam sports. [Think ... squash ... do you know who the 7 times womens world champion is?] Equally there is a market, it is sellable via a webshop, it achieves a bigger mission than just profit, it is scalable and it is possible within my current network and capabilities, however it does need a bit of initial investment.

Anyway I didn't win the pitch! But I really improved my pitch technique and was very satisfied with my effort. It is incredibly difficult in 1 minute to get across to the jury:

  1. What's in it for you? [Emotion]
  2. What problem can be solved with this solution? [Market potential]
  3. For who is the solution? [Target market]
  4. What is the solution and what does it cost? [Concept & business model]
  5. What I want from you? [call to action]
As part of my role at the University of Applied Sciences I coach students who are starting their own business, during the media entrepreneurs minor. Since my last entrepreneurial endeavor failed, this weekend was my first foray brainstorming my own business ideas again. I had a great time and the coaches at ACE were inspirational and loads of fun [and they can karaoke!].

I just hope my business idea pitch was better than my karaoke performance!?!?

Tuesday 26 June 2012

eLearning Experiments and A New Strategic Canvas For the HVA

eLearning is all the rage now in education. Yesterday I participated in a 4 hour session with other teachers/lecturers from the HVA [University of Applied Sciences] about "Learning Tomorrow". But I think we are missing the point by getting so caught up in technology and ICT.

I have been trialing a few little experiments [the non scientific type] to see what works best with students in terms of eLearning i.e. what makes them more "active" = thinking = learning. These experiments include; creating knowledge clips [10 minute videos with theory], asking students to create videos instead of written reports as assignments, using Facebook to communicate with students, using a Facebook group to start discussions, polling students via FB for exam questions and using online articles instead of books.

I am not seeing the difference! There has not been more participation, but there has been more complaining unfortunately. But certainly not more giving their opinion about a topic or article related to the subject.

Students suggest teachers should get with the programme and use more up-to-date ICT methods. However, when, in one of my innovation classes, I tested my strategy canvas for a new value curve for the University, the majority of students didn't like the idea of not having face-to-face lectures. 

I have noticed that while doing these eLearning experiments, the moment that I get the students thinking the most, is when they are physically taking part in a relevant [subject related] discussion among themselves and with me in class. Remember that Chinese proverb: “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand” ... hmmm a relevant proverb for marketers & teachers alike!

I presented to them the following changes to the HVA, using the creation of a new value curve on a Strategy Canvas [Blue Ocean theory]:

  1. Less physical lectures - more virtual web colleges.
  2. Less physical half days at Uni - replaced by one full intensive day at Uni - with intensive small workshops - with lots of interaction. [Less physical days at school also means students can better combine work/study/own business].
  3. Less exams at end of year - more test moments when the student wants at different moments during the course  [digitally is an option of course].
  4. Less feeling like a number at Uni - more intensive coaching one-on-one face-to-face or via skype video.
  5. Less abstract/virtual assignments - more REAL external assignments with companies [possibly paid -  like the HVA & Pepperminds assignment]

Well the students were very enthusiastic about some of the new value curve, but seriously worried about loosing physical contact. This was reinforced again yesterday when the two students present in the eLearning meeting, suggested that "ICT is all good and well, but there needs to be a balance of physical, face-to-face contact combined with the online stuff".

Yep ... balance. We need to be sure we don't swing like a pendulum to over digitalize our education and loose the all so necessary contact and coaching moments. This balance is in the Strategy Canvas above, and at the same time this new value curve sets HVA apart from its competition [or the average competition] and could create a sustainable competitive advantage.

Monday 4 June 2012

My Mum is sooo cool ... happy birthday for today!

My Mum is soooooo cooooool. 

How many women in their 60's do you know who are building websites themselves? Using dreamweaver I may add, not a free programme like this one [that I use for this blog!].

She is building her second website and getting a real taste for it! She started with a site for her organisation - the "Medway dyslexia Association":  and her latest creation for "British Flora" will be going live shortly. 

When you take a look at the Forrester social technographics data about +55's and their desire to be "creators" online my Mum is pretty unique!! And she is older than that group.

Not only does she build websites but volunteers her time for organisations, committees and causes that she is passionate about ... dyslexia and gardening!! She teaches young children ways of coping with dyslexia and helps them get the best out of themselves - with some going on to University and thriving in creative roles. She should feel very proud of herself.

Above is a picture of my Mum with my nephew - making cakes together. Doesn't she look great for her age! BTW how did she manage to keep that kitchen spotless during that activity!

Mum ... you are the coolest ... HAPPY BIRTHDAY for today. Enjoy yourself and I hope you get spoilt rotten, by Dad in particular.

Love Claire